- The number of dead and missing was revised Tuesday.
- Officials said there was some confusion in the early hours of rescue efforts.
- They are “reasonably certain” the three still missing were swept away.
The number of dead and missing in this weekend’s catastrophic Tennessee flooding was revised Tuesday after further investigation by local officials. The death toll now sits at 18, with three unaccounted for.
“Our current count has come down because of a mistake in the way we were tallying our missing and deceased,” Waverly Police Chief Grant Gillespie said in a Tuesday afternoon news conference.
On Monday, officials had said 22 were dead and dozens still missing.
In Tuesday’s announcement, Gillespie said the death toll was revised after it was discovered there had been some confusion during the chaotic and quick-moving response effort on Saturday morning.
The mistakes included counting people who had died in a hospital emergency room around that same time as flood victims when they had actually died of natural causes.
“It’s still a tremendous loss of life,” Gillespie said. “I hope that number doesn’t grow.”
(MORE: Heartbreaking Stories Emerge From Tennessee Flooding)
The list of missing, meanwhile, was whittled down to three as further investigation by detectives found they had been reunited with family or friends. As for those who remain missing, he said officials are “reasonably certain it is due to the flood.”
“The three that we have on the list we’ve investigated and we have witnesses that have put them in the water,” Gillespie said.
A post Monday night on the police and fire department’s Facebook page had four names remaining on the list of missing, including that of a 2-year-old boy who was swept out of his mother’s arms by floodwaters as she tried to get him and his siblings to safety. It wasn’t clear which three names remained on the list Tuesday.
Waverly is the county seat of Humphreys County, which was the hardest hit by the extreme flooding that ripped through the region west of Nashville on Saturday. Search and rescue efforts have been ongoing ever since, and the scope of the damage is still being absorbed.
“We’ve probably got well over 100-125 homes that are just gone,” Humphreys County Sheriff Chris Davis said in the news conference. “And when I mean gone, they‘re either off their foundation … some are just gone … Off the foundation, twisted, turned.”
Hundreds of others are damaged. Most of the destruction is centered in and around Waverly, a town of about 4,000 people in a county with a total population of around 18,000.
Davis and Gillespie have both struggled to control their emotions during press briefings.
“You have to remember these are people we know,” Davis said. “These are people’s families that we know. These are people that we grew up with. These are just people in our small county and it’s very close to us.”
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